Thursday, October 27, 2011


FALL is THE time to plant LETTUCE, KALE, CABBAGE and other “GREENS”.   These edible plants are not only for culinary use, but also serve as an ornamental accent to the fall and winter garden.

LETTUCE – Latuca sativa is a cool season annual.  All lettuces appreciate full to partial sun and prefer well-drained soil. Moderate water and light fertilization will increase production. Plant loose leaf types 4-6 inches apart and others 6-12 inches apart.  Harvest leaves for salads or sandwiches!  Always fresh and homegrown! Favorite types to grow here are:

“Boston” type, which has a loosely formed “head” of brilliant green, smooth leaves.  
Mild crispy leaves are a vibrant green. 

With a Frenchy name, it must be good – Oui! Oui!

“Loose leaf” type which makes a rosette rather than a head and has leaves in a variety of shapes and colors.
Leaves resemble those of an oak tree.

Shocking chartreuse leaves add a blast of color.

Slightly curled leaves burn a brilliant red in sunlight.

 Why settle for one lettuce when you can have a mix?

Aromatic leaves have a peppery, distinctive flavor which sets it apart from other milder lettuces.  Chez Lulu has a delicious arugula salad with toasted pine nuts and parmesan shavings in a vinaigrette dressing.  Perhaps, I will start making my own this fall with my fresh crop! 

Usually contains a combination of loose leaf varieties and Romaine (erect, cylindrical head of smooth leaves).  The mixture of fast growing, tender salad greens may also contain mustards, arugula, chicory, radicchio or cress.

ORNAMENTAL KALES and CABBAGES are all members of the same family, scientific name – Brassica (latin for cabbage) oleracea (meaning vegetable like).  Other family members are broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and brussel sprouts. We will focus on kales and cabbages which are typically grown for the decorative leaves – but are also edible! 

Finely curled leaves that begin gray green with red stems and mature a purplish burgundy. 

Green, curly leaf variety that can be substituted for spinach or chard when cooking. 

Stays about a foot high and has delicate feather like foliage which colors a deeper red and purple in full sunlight as it matures.

Fantastic, textural foliage looks amazing November through April in the South.  Colors are more vibrant in full sun.  The bright decorative foliage makes kale a favorite for containers or border planting. Try planting with violas, snapdragons or pansies. Kale needs fertile, organic rich soil.  Kale is edible and outside leaves can be harvested first leaving inner leaves to grow.  Delicious to sauté in olive oil with some fresh garlic, then spritz with lemon juice before serving!  Kale is high in vitamins A and C and calcium.  

CABBAGE is grown for its highly colored leaf rosettes, which resemble giant peony-like clusters and are marbled in shades of green, cream, rose or purple.  Cabbage is spectacular in the cool season garden, and works well with a variety of plantings.  While best in full sun, cabbage can tolerate partial sun.

Lush and full in shades of cream, white and vivid green to enhance any container or fall bed.  

Don’t be fooled by the muted shades of gray, green and pink of these bedding plants pictured here.  Once planted in full sun and as cooler weather progresses, the outer foliage will mature a deep blue gray with inner leaves coloring a bright, fuschia-pink. 

Cabbages can be decorative AND while they are edible, the flavor is not as tasty as its close veggie brother.  However, they make lovely garnishes and are cold tolerant!  Growing about 12 inches tall, cabbage works well with a variety of cool season annuals as a filler in containers.

ASIAN GREENS are the mainstays of stir-fry dishes and excellent in exotic salads. Asian greens, especially the Mustards, are attractive foliage plants that make a colorful addition to the garden and mix well with flowering annuals such as snapdragons and violas, or spring bulbs such as tulips and narcissus.  All need a sunny, fertile site and here are some of my favorites:

 A member of Broadleaf Mustards or Dai Gai Choi.  Great substitute for spinach or chard.  Bold, coppery red foliage is cold tolerant.  Use this award winning plant to liven up your fall and winter garden. 

Also known as Chinese Cabbage or Chinese Chard.  It has striking white stalks with deep green leaves that resemble romaine lettuce.

A versatile variety with spoon-shaped, deep maroon red leaves and brilliant green stems making it a spectacular frost hardy plant.


A colorful, edible thriller for sure!   Stems are a flaming, electric combination of pink, orange, yellow or red.  Bright Lights for the Magic City!  Leaves are so glossy they appear to be sprayed with lacquer.  The puckered veining makes an interesting textural statement.  A member of the Beet Family – Beta vulgaris -  this plant requires minimal care and prefers full sun.

Mainly grown for its edible root, but the tender, fresh greens, which are a bold red, can also be enjoyed!  The added bonus of attractive foliage makes this a great selection to compliment a vast array of cool season annuals.

Petoselinum crispum – a popular herb that is used for seasoning or garnish and as an attractive, frilly, foliage companion to the garden. Another feature is it is a host plant, especially the larvae of the stunning black swallowtail butterfly.  Does like some light shade in the afternoon.

Where can you get the greens? Many local nurseries and garden shops carry them. For a great selection and advice on what to try in your garden, visit Charlie Thigpen at the Garden Gallery in Pepper Place.  His eye for plant combinations was developed for years working with Southern Living – so of course that knowledge will help you, too. Oak Street Garden Shop also carries an extensive selection.  Good luck and enjoy your greens!


Sunday, October 2, 2011


so will Beer Gardens be the next outdoor trend?

First there were wooden decks, outdoor kitchens, and screened porches with massive stone fireplaces.  Like interior rooms, exterior spaces evolve in style and function.  Because of a recent project, I think that the BEER GARDEN may be the next HUGE outdoor trend.

A client very special to me was looking for a shady spot where he could enjoy his favorite beverage, draft beer, on lovely days.  His wife presented him with a wonderful birthday present – an outdoor “kegerator” – a refrigerator which houses a beer keg that is dispensed by a draft pull tap.  Now, he just needed the Beer Garden where he could sit and sip his favorite brew!

Luckily, the kegerator was housed in a niche created under the carriage house stairwell adjacent to a shaded area of the existing lawn - which was patchy and never grew well due to the lack of light.  So, with flagstone left over from another home project, we set out to create an authentic Biergarten for him.
Here is our “before” picture taken Spring 2011:

The bones of the garden were already there with a neighboring wooden privacy fence,  low flagstone wall, the brick carriage house, and evergreen cherry laurels which had grown to tower over the area.  Plus, a copper wall fountain nearby added the tranquil sound of trickling water. With a bit of tweaking, this could be just the perfect spot for his haven!

You might wonder… what is a Biergarten? The Biergarten is a Bavarian invention developed in the mid-19th century around the city of Munich during the reign of King Ludwig I.  Beers were cold-fermented, so brewing was only possible during winter. But, people wanted to enjoy a cool beer in the summer months, too!  So, breweries dug cellars into the river bank, covered the bank with gravel or stone and planted trees to provide shade. As you can imagine, it was a natural step for the breweries to realize how brilliant it would be to set up simple tables and benches among the trees and create a shaded "beer garden" for their patrons to enjoy their brew.

Characteristics of the beer garden include:
  • Wooden seating and tables
  • Canopy shading by trees - NOT umbrellas*
  • Gravel or Stone flooring
  • Festive lighting
  • Evergreen hedging
* My neighbors who just returned from Munich, Germany told me that Biergartens do have umbrellas now to advertise the types of beer offered.  However, the trees are definitely there, too!

Now, back to my client…

We removed the sod and dry laid a flagstone patio in keeping with the natural features of the beer garden. Then, we created a planting border around the patio which included:
Boxwoods – Evergreen and classic!

Lenten Roses – Shade loving perennial with creamy blooms!

Nikko Blue Hydrangea – Stunning blooms spring through summer!

Hosta – Shade loving and low growing for tight spaces.

We framed the corner of the carriage house with a Mary Nell Holly, which is evergreen, tough and has an abundant crop of red winter berries. Creeping Fig, a clinging vine that likes the shade, was planted to cover and soften the carriage house brick wall.   

Here is our "after" photo taken Fall 2011:

To complete the existing background theme, we added more Formosa Azaleas behind the stone wall in front of the privacy fence.  A Japanese Maple was planted to give some fall color and interest.

Color was introduced in planters and one flower bed which abuts the carriage house stairs.  Small, soft lighting wraps the cherry laurel trunks while copper path lights illuminate key footpath points on the patio and walk.  Lastly, we added the whimsical Beer Gnome, who stands guard to the iron gate which secures the kegerator when not in use.

I think the client was very pleased with his new space and thanks to the leftover flagstone, I was able to deliver an economical solution to his quest for the perfect beer drinking venue!

Let me know if I can help you design YOUR BEER GARDEN!  Like I said, I feel like it might be the NEXT BIG outdoor “must have”! 

Your husband or boyfriend might have a Man Cave, but don’t you think he should have a Beer Garden, too?

or find me on Facebook!

Photos courtesy of
Mater Natura Designs
mother nature garden designs